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Full Steam Ahead! (House Leveling Results, Kitchen Drywall & New Flooring)

My house is level, y’all!  I’m so pleased with the results, and so excited that that last obstacle standing between me and my vision for this house has been removed.

The whole house leveling process was very interesting.  (I shared a bit more about it on Friday.)  I had hoped to ask lots of questions along the way so that I could pass on the info to you, but the only English speaker among them left after they got everything set up because he was overseeing several jobs that day.  So the crew that actually stayed and did the work on Friday consisted of four non-English-speaking men, and to say that my Spanish is rusty would be a huge understatement.  My Spanish went from being rusty about 10 years ago to being almost nonexistent today.  But here are the basics…

They started by enlarging the scuttlehole to get under the house.  Yes, they asked permission, and I was happy to have them do that since to date, the only person who’s been able to fit into the original scuttlehole is my plumber’s very small assistant.

house leveling 1

And then they used several of these hydraulic jacks to lift the beams in areas that were low….

house leveling 2

And they used these metal plates (about the size of a 4 x 4 tile) to shim the area.  Some areas only required one shim, others requires two or three shims.

house leveling 3

They also dug this hole on the outside of the house that went right underneath the outside footing (the concrete “wall” around the perimeter of the house) to have easier access to the crawl space.

house leveling 4

That picture really doesn’t do justice to the size of that hole.  You can get a better idea of the size in this picture, showing one of the men crawling out of the hole.  And he’s actually standing at the bottom, but hunched over just a bit as he crawls out.

house leveling 5

Anyway, the process is really pretty straightforward.  They start in an area of the house that’s actually level and work out from there.  In our case, they started in the master bedroom and worked out into the hallway, then Matt’s game room, then my office, then the entryway, living room, music room, and finally the kitchen.  Here’s a view of the floor plan for reference.

house floor plan 5-2014

(Note:  That wall between the entryway and music room doesn’t exist yet.  That’s one of the main projects I’ve been waiting to do until the floors were level.)

One of the men was inside the house with a really long level, and he would go from place to place, checking the level of the floor.  When he would find an area of the floor that needed work, he would tap on the floor with the end of the level to let the crew underneath the house know where to go.  Then they would jack up that area and insert the shims.  The guy inside would just yell instructions to them through the floor to let them know if they needed to raise it more, or if they had raised it too much, to reach level.  Once that area was level, they’d move on to another area.

The strangest part of the whole process was hearing my walls creak and pop as they were using the jack.  I was sitting at the dining table (which currently sits in the music room) using my computer while they were working in the entryway (the area of the house that had the worst issues), and as they were jacking up the beam under the entryway wall, the creaks and pops got so loud that it actually made me nervous enough that I got  up and moved to another room…just in case.  🙂

But all ended well.  My house is still standing, and my floors are now level.  I can tell a huge difference just by walking through the house.  I also had areas in the floor that felt “bouncy” before (for lack of a better word), and now everything feels solid.  I’ve also noticed that my floors don’t creak nearly as much when I’m walking through the house.

I can also see a big difference in areas.  Remember how my fireplace was against the wall at the bottom, but leaned away from the wall at the top?

pier and beam foundation unlevel 2

Now that that floor is level, the fireplace sits flat against the wall all the way up.

house leveling 6

And in the entryway, the feet of the console table used to sit about an inch away from the wall, while the top back edge of the table rested against the wall.

And now it sit about an inch from the wall from the bottom to the top.

house leveling 7

Sorry for the horrible pic!  That wall is kind of crowded right now since I have the console table and the credenza sitting there until the drywall in the hallway is finished.

So that was my house leveling experience.  Very well worth the money, in my opinion.  I generally hate spending thousands of dollars on things like that, but considering that so many of the pretty, decorative things I want to do hinged on those floors being level, I was happy to pay the money.

And how do you like that layer of dust covering the table in the picture above?  Everything in my house is covered in a layer of dust right now, ever since we removed the drywall from the ceiling in the kitchen and hallway.  It got worse when I sanded the kitchen floors, and even worse yesterday when I started putting up the drywall in the kitchen.  I’ll be glad when all of the dust-generating parts of this kitchen remodel are finished so that I can let all of the dust settle and get it all cleaned up for good!

But speaking of drywall, here’s my progress so far in the kitchen.  I got this one wall finished.  (Obviously I still have to do the taping and mudding.)

drywall on walls 1

Please be so kind as to overlook the gaps at the top.  I stink at drywalling, but thank goodness I’m a wizard with the taping and mudding.  🙂

And yes, I’m installing the drywall vertically instead of horizontally.  I’m working by myself, and there’s no way I could have done it horizontally by myself.  I’m certain this way will be just fine.

Okay, I know you’re thinking, “Ummmm…Kristi?  You missed a spot!”  😀

I’m actually not going to drywall that area on the left (and I need to cut off that little piece of drywall at the top), and you’ll also notice that I removed a stud.  (No, this isn’t a load bearing wall.)  That’s where my fridge is going, and I’m hoping that having that extra 4.5 inches will allow it to sit back enough so that it looks like a counter depth fridge.  If not, I’ll end up cutting that area out completely and reframing it so that the fridge can sit back far enough to look counter depth.  All of that area will be hidden once the cabinets go in and I build the box around the fridge, so when it’s all finished no one will ever notice that it sits back that far.  And on the other side of the wall, I have a plan for hiding that bump out (if I need to create a bump out).  But I’ll save that for later.

I also got one piece of drywall hung on the other side of the room.

drywall on walls 2

I’m still trying to decide whether or not I want to tackle that wall to the left today or not.  That’s where the wall ‘o cabinets will go.  The issue is that the original flooring will have to come out before I put up the drywall on that wall.  (Obviously I don’t want to put drywall on top of flooring that’s about to come out.)  But my subfloors aren’t solid pieces of plywood.  They’re 1 x 10’s with spacing in between.

drywall on walls 3

I do have my new flooring, but I can’t begin installing it until Thursday at the earliest since it has to acclimate to the room.

new flooring 1

So that means that if I take up the old flooring today to do the drywall, I’ll be living with flooring with big gaps that go directly under the house for at least three days.  Seeing that I’ve been living with some rather large holes in my floor for several months now, I know it seems strange to now be concerned with gaps in the floor, but for some reason it really makes me nervous.  I should probably just get over it, though.  It would definitely be the smart and efficient thing to go ahead and remove the floor boards, get the drywall finished, and be ready to go with the new flooring on Thursday morning.

Things are finally starting to progress!  If things work out the way I hope they will, my goal is to have my cabinets installed by the end of next weekend.  Is that too ambitious?  We’ll see!  🙂

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  1. It looks beautiful! I know that sounds strange, but this is where the changes start becoming real.

  2. It’s looking great and I know you are happy to get it all level!! Did you buy this house knowing it would involve this much work or find out once you got into it? Can we see a picture of the house from the street? I’m just curious as to what drew you to it. Were you looking for a project? You can absolutely do more than any woman I’ve ever seen!!!

    1. We have had a couple of surprises, but mostly plumbing. I knew the house needed to be leveled when I walked through it the very first time, so that was no surprise. And yes, I definitely knew what I was getting myself into when we bought this house. 🙂 I was looking specifically for a fixer upper that I could make my own without feeling guilty about tearing out everything that was already there (like I would if I moved into a relatively new house with all builder-grade stuff — that would have felt so wasteful, and I would have felt guilty about that).

      You can see exterior pics on the link that Jean posted above. It’s nothing special…yet. 🙂 It might take a few years, but I have plans on turning the rather plain exterior into something really charming.

      Quite honestly, the main thing that drew me to this particular house wasn’t the house at all. I looked at the house and thought, “Well, I can work with it. It’ll be fine.” But the main draw for me was the fact that the house is located in the city (I’m NOT a country girl — no way could I live in the country) and yet it sits on a one-acre lot. So we have quite a bit of land with loads of possibilities. So it was the lot that drew me.

      1. The huge lots are wonderful!!! I am very much a country girl and don’t think I could survive the city without all of the lot for protection :^)
        Things are looking good…I know it all looks like work to you, but for we outsiders…….it’s becoming a beautiful home. Your assistant is really checking out the flooring……now if he would just get to work :^)
        Blessings to you,

      2. I have a one acre lot too Krist so I surely understand that draw!! I’m so completely impressed with all you do AND find time to respond to posts.

  3. Isn’t that a great feeling, to know the floors are level and stable, and that Matt can now maneuver around easier? The foundation of your remodel is now officially completed, and you can get on to the pretty stuff. Woohoo!

    1. Could you put some plastic visqueen down to cover the gaps in the subfloor until you’re ready to install the new flooring?

      1. I probably could, but I started taking up the floor yesterday and realized that the gaps actually aren’t as bad and I thought they would be. The worst gaps are around the edges, but the majority of the subfloor doesn’t have huge gaps like I expected. Yay! 🙂

  4. Know you must be pleased beyond pleased to have this taken care of — there’s some fist pumps going on here and there’s probably a gazillion other readers doing the same! I’m SOOOOO jealous of your black dirt! Wanna trade for some of my NC red clay?

    1. I think I’ll stick with our black soil, but thanks for the offer! 😀

      We’ve been told that this soil is incredibly fertile, so we’re excited about starting a garden in the near future (probably next year). Hopefully that fertile soil can make up for my lack of a green thumb. 🙂

  5. Amazing to see the fireplace level haha. And you built it on an unlevel surface. Awesome! To see the kitchen drywall really makes the room take shape. It all looks wonderful.

  6. I see Kitty is doing her job of helping to acclimate the flooring to the room. : )
    Congrats on having a level home!

  7. All along I felt a worry for you because of the levelling. Can’t tell you how relieved I am that it’s done! LOL

  8. Kristi, you leave me in awe with your talent and sheer determination to get your home completed just the way you envision it! I’m happy for you and Matt and look forward to each time you post something new about your progress.
    Thanks so much for sharing your ups and downs with your blog readers!

  9. Doesn’t look like the door way isn’t wide enough for Matt’s wheelchair to get through Kristi..

        1. Oh my goodness, no, I didn’t think that at all! 🙂 I think it looks narrower in the picture than it does in person. So does the space for the fridge. When I saw the space for the fridge in the photo I got worried that I had measured wrong and hadn’t left enough space, so I went immediately and remeasured it. 🙂

  10. I understand about being nervous about having gaps for 3 days. I would go out an buy rolls of that protective paper and lay it down after removing the old floor, securing w/ tape (my cat would start tearing it up or sliding underneath if I didn’t). After all, aren’t you going to cover the new floor once it’s laid?

    1. I forgot to say that I bet, at this point, you’re glad that you painted the couch. I know that layer of dust intimately and it took forever to get rid of it. Changing the air filters very often, much to the chagrin of my penny pincher hubby, helped a lot.

      1. I’m definitely loving that painted sofa! When I’m taking a break from working in the very dirty, dusty kitchen, I have no qualms whatsoever about sitting on that sofa to rest because I know that if I get it dirty, it’ll just wipe right off with a damp cloth. I wouldn’t be able to do that with a regular upholstered sofa because I’d be afraid of getting it dirty. 🙂

  11. Exciting times! I’m so excited for you.
    Really looking forward to seeing the house continue to take shape.

  12. Why don’t. You take up the floor and put down the vapor barrier like tar paper or other vapor barrier. You will need the vapor barrier to keep moisture from warping the floor anyway won’t you?

    1. Hmmm…I actually hadn’t planned on putting down any kind of barrier under the hardwood floor. The rest of the house has the hardwood floor right on top of the subfloor, so that’s what I was planning on doing.

      I suppose I need to research this a bit more before I dive right in! 🙂

  13. You plan on having cabinets in by next week? It took our guy months to redo our kitchen (he had issues) and I’ve been staring a bathroom ceiling that I’ve been meaning to Kilz and repaint for the past 3 years after removing popcorn. You amaze me.

  14. Cabinets in by next weekend??? If you weren’t Wonder Woman, I’d think that was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. But I know you can’t let it rest once you get started. Of course, anything could come up to alter that plan a little, so we won’t hold you to it.

    I’m so very proud for you, and of you.

    I agree that you need some kind of vapor barrier before you put your new flooring down, however it should probably be put under your subflooring with some insulation added. I know, you’re not crawling under there. I don’t blame you, I wouldn’t either.

    1. My father-in-law is very big on energy efficiency, so maybe when he’s here next time, I can talk him into getting under there and adding some insulation. I know he did it in one of his previous houses — insulation held in place with chicken wire. 🙂

  15. There’s a tool you can get to help get your drywall flush to the ceiling. Imagine a see saw for drywall, it goes on the floor and a little lip goes under the edge of the drywall, you step on the other end and poof! Levers it up to be flush with the ceiling! Just google drywall lifting tool and you’ll see pics of what they look like 🙂 Much easier to cover the gaps with baseboards and quarter round then mud and tape a joint along the ceiling!

    1. I actually have something similar. My brother-in-law Bill showed me how to do it. He made it look so easy, but then when I tried it, I couldn’t get the drywall to budge. Not even a quarter of an inch! Not at all! So I finally gave up. 😀 Oh well. I’m well stocked with tape and mud. 🙂

  16. Thanks for sharing so much information, on your levelling. Wow quite a job,but certainly will be well worth it. I wouldn’t like to think about what could crawl in the floor gaps. Looking forward to seeing the next step of this Reno. All the best,you are so amazing!

  17. Yaaaaaay! Level floors! Yaaaaaaaay! Drywall coming along! Yaaaaaaaaay! New flooring and more drywall coming soon! Awesome progress! You’re a real dynamo, girl! While it’s a lot of work, it must be a real source of joy each day to work on something and make it your own! Fantastic! Hugs, Leena

  18. I’m glad you’re happy with the quality of work and that your home is level. It should stay put for a long, long time to come.

  19. Nicely written article. Thanks for sharing so much information, on your leveling. All the best, you are so amazing! Awesome! To see the kitchen drywall really makes the room take shape. It all looks wonderful.