Before we moved into our house, we knew we had some damage to one of the beams in our office (the front room off the atrium). Our $400 pest inspector made this clear when he stuck his screw driver into the beam and left the lovely holes to remind us of his $400 bill:
This beam runs from the wall adjacent to the atrium, across the office, through the front wall of the house from which it extends another 3 feet, for a total of 16′ in length. It was also clear that the exterior of the beam had some damage and it was starting to sag (due to damage to the post holding it up) which was affecting the siding:
Apparently this is a very common problem with this model of house- water intrudes around the beams which stick out from the front of the house with no eave to protect them. We have a neighbor a few houses down who apparently faced a similar situation since he is now missing one of the beams that should be sticking out of the front of his house- it’s pretty obvious that it rotted and simply fell off (there’s still part of the rotted beam there). Anyhow, this is the main reason we chose to extend our roof– to prevent this from happening again or to another beam. However, before we could extend our roof, we needed to replace this beam since the roof would be resting on top of it.
We thought about hiring this work out and talked to a contractor about it when we were shopping around for contractors to extend the roof. After having one of them explain the process to us, Andy felt confident that he could do it with the help of the best brother in the world, Tim. We also knew that if it got to be too difficult to handle, we could call the best contractor in the world, our friend Kevin Sullivan who helped replace the beam above our garage last summer.
The first step (done by Tim with close supervision from Honey Brown) was to build a false close to where the rotted beam was in order to support the roof while we replaced the beam.
Once the false wall was up, Tim started removing the drywall around the beam. Like most of our house, the dry wall was applied directly to the existing paneling, making for extra laborious demo. As soon as we started, we realized the damage was REALLY bad- the entire post holding up the beam was rotted.
Next came the fun part of taking out the rotted beam. The exterior part came out pretty easily. It was less attached to the rest of the beam than to the flashing!
The rest of the beam was attacked with the sawzall in about 3-foot sections. As we (and by “we” I mean Andy and Tim) removed the old beam we came to realize that the ceiling was holding the beam up rather than the other way around (as we removed each section of beam, the ceiling seemed to breathe a sigh of relief).
While Tim and Andy were removing the old beam, I was busily priming and painting the new 20 foot beam (which was delivered to our driveway that morning by Golden State Lumber).
As Andy and Tim moved the beam from the street to the front yard, they started to get a feel for just how heavy a 20′ douglas fir beam is.
Our original plan was to simply insert it through the hole left by the old beam until it hit the opposite side of the office (13′ away) where it would rest on another post. We quickly realized that is much easier said than done. Our first modification was to insert the new post on the exterior wall as clearly, the 2 layers of siding would not be enough to hold up that side of the beam.
Then, the boys built a “shelf” to rest the beam on which would prove to be extremely helpful as we slid it across the room:
Being scientist types, we decided to use some tools of physics to help us out, such as a lever created by our little giant ladder. We also realized that our other ladder, a 4′ aluminum ladder was not nearly as sturdy as the kitchen table. On our first attempt we (and by “we” I truly mean myself included- though I lent more “advice” than muscle) got one end of the beam resting on our newly installed post like so:
At this point, we realized we would need to enlarge the hole that the beam was to slide through. This meant removing the newly installed post and putting up a temporary one that was a few inches shorter. We also learned that taking the beam down from that position is much harder than getting the beam to that position. Trial 2 involved Andy on the roof with a harness. The beam sustained some grass stains and I though we broke Tim. Trial 2 was a failure. Finally, at the end of the day, as many of our neighbors drove very slowly by the house taking in the scene that was unfolding on the front lawn (and likely wondering how long we were planning to keep the kitchen table on the front lawn) we had success!
Once the beam was pretty close to its final resting place, we simply had to re-install the permanent post and attach the beam to the post on both sides of the room. We used some steel brackets as well as some 2x4s. We later screwed through the roof into the beam, but not until just prior to getting the new roof. We also had to trim the beam on the exterior to make sure it was even with the others (we left it a foot or so long on purpose so that we could be assure it wouldn’t be too short).
This is also about the time we realized we may as well remove all of the walls in the office. This would allow us to check the posts supporting the other beam (it was in good shape-phew!), install an overhead light in the center of the ceiling, ground all of the electrical:
replace and add insulation to all of the walls:
And remedy some of the sloppy trim and drywall work like this (notice the crack in the corner of the wall and the way the window casing is inset in the drywall):
Tim had gone home (exhausted and sore) so Andy hung the new drywall and I was in charge of the taping and mudding (apparently this fell close enough to the realm of painting which is clearly my territory). I was very nervous about the taping and spent many hours researching online how-tos (http://www.familyhandyman.com has some great how-tos, as does youtube). Luckily enough, I procrastinated long enough that Uncle Joe took the initiative and did all of the taping for me (during his vacation no less!), leaving just the mudding. It turns out you can do a pretty god job with drywall mud even as a novice, it just takes LOTS of time and sanding.
For the wall color, we chose Behr’s “Reflecting Pool.” In the Home Depot, the color looks very grey, but in the office it is a very pale blue, which Andy likes very much (I had voted for “Dolphin fin” which is much more neutral, but got vetoed). Ultimately, the office doesn’t look TOO different from how it started (the light fixture is way too small for the room- it’s just a place holder until I find something better), however the temperature difference from the insulation is quite noticeable- it went from being the hottest room in the house during the summer to the coolest!
Some day we’d like to replace the flooring and maybe the desk, but for now it’s good enough.