Levelling that floor
I’ve just taken a week off work and I committed myself to getting lots of work done on the house not least levelling that floor.
I worked ceaselessly from 8am till 10pm with short breaks for lunch and a couple more throughout the day so I could break the back of the bedrooms and be sitting pretty by the end of the week.
After this week I now have a new set of rules.
- Make a list of the work to be completed by the end of the week.
- Make a list of the work to be completed by the end of the day.
- Take the list of work to be completed by the end of the week and rip it up.
- Take the list of the work to be completed by the end of the day and if you’ve managed to do this by the end of the week then you’re doing well.
I worked sooooo hard and by the end of the week I know I’d done lots of work, but I’d hardly got anything to show for it.
Generally the intention was to get into the bedrooms and have everything done in them so I could crack on with the kitchen. Summarising this meant me levelling out the large bedroom floor with the cunning application of plywood and joists, installing the radiators and testing them in situ before laying down the floorboards. I would then simply lay the reclaimed boards and upon hiring a sander I’d gracefully sand the floor, followed by varnishing, refitting the skirting, painting the skirting and dado, then touching up the rooms before refurnishing them. I might even relax with a bottle of wine once in a while.
Lifting the boards took forever and upon lifting them I first had to de-nail the boards and de-nail the joists too. This is not an easy task and crawling along naily joists on ones hands and knees is not my favourite way to spend a day, but needs must.
Under the floorboards there was lots of rubble, rubble indicating where my original plumber had removed lots of stonework to allow easier drilling of a hole for the inconspicuous overflow pipe he’d put above the front door – nice work there. Anyway this explained partly why this room was difficult to heat as now the pipe was removed and lots of stonework was missing too it was a bit of a mess down there and it was leaking hot air. This needed rebuilding and fortunately the kind plumber had left all the stones I needed in the void under the floor, how kind of him. Hmmm I didn’t see that one coming.
I now realised that once I’d put the floorboards back in place that the electrical cables for the ground floor ceiling would not be accessible and as the fusebox was directly under this floor too then I would effectively be sealing all this gubbins in too. This was not good so I needed to come up with a plan B. Plan B was to go along to Screwfix, buy lots of 1.5mm, 2.5mm and 6mm twin and earth and to route all the potential cabling I was likely to need later. No termination, no I know that would need an electricians delicate touch, just lots of cabling for potential light fittings, light switches and a few spare cables to run from the fusebox just in case I might need them in future. What started as quite a simple exercise soon became elaborate and one light fitting in the corridor soon became three fittings there, one in the lobby and one outside. The Screwfix trip was partnered by a trip to B&Q for even more insulation – one cannot have too much insulation.
Once the wires were drilled and labelled – yes I relived my schoolboy years and Dymo’d the cables at either end, I even did a rather lovely – some may say nerdy – diagram. The light fittings were also reinforced with a bit of timber above each of them and some stout cable nailing to keep everything shipshape.
I then tackled the pipework for the radiators and again what seemed a trifling job became a struggle, again the pipework worked its inflexible nastiness on me and it took lots longer to drag it from the manifold to the radiator location. I again had to fit elbow joints at its middle to get it around a tight bend and it didn’t disappoint in being an annoying little job.
Now finally onto the job of levelling the floor.
By now you know the plan, simply cover the lower bit in 12mm spruce plywood to bring the lower section level with the first joist of the upper section then lay spruce between the joists of the upper section (I didn’t have to do this but it would make laying the floorboard simpler in the future). A doddle, it’ll only take a matter of a day as I’d already done the lower section.
How I laugh now 🙂
The upper section first took ages, the timber I had to place along the edges of the joists had to be fixed so that the upper edge would support the spruce plywood so it was flush with the top of the joists, in turn making the flat floor. Well that doesn’t sound too bad but all of the timber needed notching and drilling to allow for the pipework and electrical cables and once fitted it just didn’t level out. A bit of head scratching and spirit levelling later I realised that some of the joists weren’t perfectly vertical, this meant that rather than have the infill spruce lying level with the tops of the joists it meant that on one side it should be proud of the joist top and on the other it should be below the joist top. There was only a millimetre or two in it but I had to get it right. Many hours re-levelling later.
The next surprise was not a pleasant one.
Remember I said that the lower half of the room was all now level with the first joist of the higher section of the room. Well… all would be well and good with this if that joist was level with the other joists but it wasn’t, for some bananas reason it was 9mm below the rest of the higher joists. Why hadn’t I noticed it.
This meant that I would now have to pay out another £100 for some 9mm plywood to bring it all up to level and expend more sweat in doing so.
Anyway it had to be done and a quick phone call to Travis Perkins and all was ordered and delivered, a bit of lugging in and I must admit that the hardwood plywood I used was spectacularly better than the 12mm spruce I’d used previously and the floor was brilliant once fitted, in fact both the upper and lower sections are uber-duber solid now.
Anyway I cut the spruce I’d planned on using in the upper part of the room to fit the gaps between the joists, and dropped them into place, all nice and level now. It looked undulating but the spirit level never lies, it was pretty much on the money now.
A rule to be noted: ALWAYS TRUST YOUR SPIRIT LEVEL, DON’T TRUST ANYONE ELSE’S WORK TO BE RIGHT.
The spirit level never lies.
Once I had the spruce ready I labelled it up so I knew where it had to go back to and I lifted it out a row at a time and then in each row I did a bit of work:
- Clear out the rubble and debris
- Cable tie the electrical cables
- Pin the cables tidily against the joists
- Insulate the bottom of the row
- Insulate any pipework
- Insulate the top of the rom
- Photograph every bit to remind oneself of the location of electrical and heating services
- Pin down the spruce cover with some strategically placed screws
I still had the problem of fitting the radiators and I’d now talked myself into placing inspection panels to allow me to view the pipework below the floorboards once I’d fitted the rad’s. I was going to wing it and hope everything would be ok… but I really was worried about the ability of a joint to fix to a chrome pipe and a leak could cause things to go spectacularly wrong should a leak be sprung once the boards were down.
So I spent ages fitting access panels in the upper and lower parts of the floor, the upper was a doddle as the spruce panels were easy to saw up but the lower part involved tunnelling through both spruce and hardwood plywood, so it was all a bit of a chore and took rather too long.
Anyway once done the radiators were brought in, valves and joints were hooked up to the plastic pipes and the chrome legs and once all was tightened I switched open the valves on the manifold.
I love this bit, if all goes to plan there’s a lot of satisfaction to be gained by the radiators springing into life, then gently warming as the tanks all refill themselves and the bleed valves whistle out the air that’s been resting in them for months.
A bit of fun and games was had on bleeding one radiator, the air is forced out as some speed with the heating pumps at full welly, I had opened the bleed valve with a butterfly key and was patiently waiting to quickly tighten it at the first sign of liquid. Sure enough a minute or so and the radiator now being full it spat out a horizontal stream of rather hot water. I motioned to tighten up the valve only to discover I’d completely unscrewed it. A minute of Laurel and Hardying later and it was all tight and secure but it was a bit like those depth charged U-Boat films for a couple of moments.
All joints held-ish, a couple needed tightening but all went to plan.
Anyway now this was all done it would be a simple job of just laying the flooring onto the level floor and pining it down.
Not so fast Tonto, the first board on the threshold of the door took ages to fit, to measure and to get level. The next line of boards took forever to get straight and parallel to the wall. The next line was a pest too and when I got to the third everything started going skewiff. I discovered at this point that not all boards are equal and some are wider than others…. arggggghhhh… couple this with every board needing re-de-nailing, every board needing inspecting for cracking and the removal of said cracks, some older boards needing teeny bits of ancient woodworm infestations removed and all boards needing trimming, cleaning, tongue-tidying and groove gouging.
This was going to take some time, but hey my week had gone by then.
Really I worked sooooo hard.