Living in an older home can be great. The architectural details you just can’t get in a newer home, the sense of history, the “oohs” and “aahs” as friends admire the house’s vintage charm - these are just some of the reasons why you bought the home in the first place.
But when it’s time to remodel, you wonder what you will find behind the walls, above that plaster ceiling, and below those beautiful floorboards.
It is understandable that you might be afraid of unknown issues a remodeler might find once walls, floors, and ceilings are opened up. But there’s no need to panic. Almost all old houses have irregularities that naturally occur as the house ages.
A remodeler might discover damage from a termite colony that is long gone or water damage from a leak that was patched a long time ago. Perhaps natural settlement has warped a joist or pulled framing studs out of perfect plumb and square. It is better to discover and correct these things than to leave them covered up, especially if they are likely to get worse over time.
Renovation provides the perfect opportunity for a “reset”. Issues can be addressed (if they need to be) and your home can be made as structurally sound and beautiful as possible, so you can keep enjoying it for years to come.
Let’s look at a few surprises you might discover in your remodeling project, and why--with the right design/build team--these surprises don’t need to be the cause of sleepless nights.
For one Chevy Chase family, some funky additions to their 1919 home had been placed on top of a foundation that, let’s just say, wasn’t up to anyone’s code.
Here’s just a little bit of what they were experiencing: There were cracks in the drywall and separation between the floor and the wall near the baseboard. The floor was sloping down toward the exterior. It was so far out of plumb, several walls had a horizontal split in the drywall two feet above the floor. A firm foundation this was not.
It turns out that the neighborhood had soil that tended to cause these kinds of dramatic and debilitating settlement issues. The addition had been built years ago and had not undergone a soil bearing test first to confirm the ability of the soil to support the weight of the home without settling.
Sounds scary, right? But knowing the issue and having the expertise to solve it makes all the difference. Our engineers, excavators, and an expert construction crew took care of business, stopped the settlement, and corrected the walls and floor that had been going all akimbo. To stop the settlement and correct the out of square walls and floor required helical piers to be drilled into the ground. These are like a metal corkscrew that goes down and has tabs on the end that slip under footings to support the foundation. We used the helical piers to carefully and slowly jack the foundation back up to level and secure it there.
By doing the soil test and making the right fixes to the foundation from the start, we were able to move ahead with the quickest, safest, and most cost-effective solution.
The wood that is used in homes--from floor joists to hardwood flooring to trim molding--is naturally subject to seasonal changes in humidity. Managing humidity is, of course, a three-season issue in greater Washington, D.C. The good news is, if you catch it soon enough, a dehumidifier in the damp seasons and a humidifier in the winter can help minimize this kind of fluctuation in moisture that wood products are so susceptible to. A humidification component can be added to your HVAC system and set to maintain even levels of moisture in the house.
Sometimes the surprises behind the wall are the result of a previous homeowner’s attempt to tackle the problem themselves, or even a contractor who decided to cut corners.
We discovered a dramatic example of this in a recent bathroom remodel in a suburban Washington DC home. The surprise beneath the floorboards in this situation? A bathtub poised to drop down into the kitchen from the second floor! How does that happen? We found the midsection of the tub propped up by one sad little 2x4 (instead of a 2x10 joist) and the tub perimeter teetering on stacked 2x4 blocks. It wasn’t really a matter of if, but when. Whoever installed the tub had just cut around joists to make room for the plumbing, so the tub and the flooring never really stood a chance.
But with properly installed and braced flooring joists, we were able to remodel and keep that tub on the second floor where it belonged. It’s a good thing that the owner had decided to renovate the bathroom. Otherwise, we’d have never had the opportunity to make this correction.
Having the right design/build team in your corner is going to make all the difference. What are surprises to you, are familiar to them. They run into obstacles of one type or another every day. They will have solutions to those challenges.
If you are looking to purchase an older (or even a newer) home, have an inspector take a look so you can be as informed as possible about potential structural issues. If you are looking to remodel a home you already are living in, choose a renovation professional who has the experience to anticipate potential issues that might be uncovered during renovation.
Don’t be surprised, be prepared. The better the renovation company you work with, the fewer issues you will have as the remodeling project moves forward.
If you are interested in renovations for your home & are curious about the potential return on investment, contact Gilday today!
And while you are waiting for your consultation meeting date to arrive, prepare yourself by reading our eBook "How Gilday Renovations Integrated Team Delivers the Home of Your Dreams."